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The Zoom Trance & how to beat it

To survive the Mark II Melbourne lockdown I have been signing up to some evening sessions. The Information Knowledge Group from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have a Meetup group and their recent seminar Gritting Teeth and Raising Eyebrows with Johnnie Moore from Unhurried grabbed my attention. Yes, we have spent the months since March 2020 sitting at our computers trying to work together on Zoom or Microsoft Teams and this session was pitched at helping us all stay sane and human in the process.

For many of us in library land, the working from home transition has been stressful and exhausting. We have been keeping in contact with video calls and to progress our work rather than to have that unhurried human conversation. Concentration can be hard to maintain and the Zoom Trance, where we stare at a screen while someone talks around us and our concentration wanes, happens to us all.

The session explored ways of being more human, more embodied and wholehearted in our work particularly in a Zoom connected world. One of Johnnie Moore’s key life learning he shared with us was that gritting your teeth and carrying on often does not work. Boring meetings are boring, whether they are on zoom or in a room together and he challenged us in the audience to think about how to make room for the human at work.

So here are the key takeaways from the session for me to challenge myself to beat the Zoom trance and to lead more human video meetings. There may need to be some technology skill development required as well!

  1. Let people be the content: Do not over agenda Zoom/Teams meetings. It is important to provide space for human interaction. Breakout rooms provide opportunities to participate and remember to notover agenda the breakout time. Use it to build human connection to replaces that pre-meeting socialisation that happens in face to face meetings.
  2. Leave space for unhurried conversations: Often unhurried conversations in the workplace happen in the tearoom, over the printer or at the beginning of the day. It is important to build space in the day for unhurried conversation. Do not become addicted to productivity and busyness. In unhurried conversations online, it is important to pass on the talking stick — the permission for everyone to contribute to the conversation and not be interupted. Let’s all practise the ‘Yes and’ response where team members contributions are validated rather than repudated with the ‘No but’.
  3. Be brave: Have a less structured meeting. It is okay for meetings to have a life of their own and to let them flow. Not being sure of what will happen can be energising. Build in time for a game / fun which reinforces our human connection. Some games that we tried were: I Like, I Wonder, I Wish. In this game everyone covers their camera with a business card with one person contributing a statement beginning with I Like, I Wonder or I Wish. Those that agree with the statement remove their business card and show their faces. This game goes on for all those who want to share. The second game is one everyone knows. Rock, Paper, Scissors. You pick your opponent but you do not tell them. This game relies on everyone being honest. You turn off your video when you are beaten and the game goes on until the last member standing — or on video.

4. Be content with getting less done. This is hard for library folk as we pride ourselves on getting lots done and being able to provide solutions quickly. Johnnie Moore advocates for us all to not hurry to a solution. Be in the enquiry phase for longer and ponder more, enjoy interacting with each other more and provide time for human interaction. Get to the meeting a bit early so that you can chat with people as they pop up in the meeting. Allow breakout rooms for a coffee break catch-up — with a 10 minute break to go get a coffee away from the screen.

Some more tips can be found here.

Virtual Meetings do not have to be a bore. Andy Molinsky. Harvard Business Review March 2020

Zoom Fatigue is real — here’s why video calls are so draining. Libby Sander & Oliver Bauman. Ideas Ted.com

Written by

Librarian, interested in libraries, digital disruption, startups, Australian politics

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